Desktop version

Home arrow Sociology

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>


All heritage tangible and intangible adds to the essence of places, landscapes, and memories, and represents aesthetic, historic, scientific, social.

or spiritual values that justify its protection and preservation. The elements that give significance, importance, and emotion to places are transmitted from generation to generation, constantly recreated by communities and individuals as a response to what happens in the world around them and to the passage of history.

Those territorial elements, material or immaterial, are carriers of memories that are easily forgotten, destroyed or degraded. In this context, the debate must include the heritage conservation and valorization and the use by economic activities, in particular, tourism. Tourism and the other economic activities as well as the new uses of historical sites and monuments could be a threat but they could also improve the conservation and preservation of heritage (tangible or intangible) and promote the maintenance of cultural diversity.

Heritage is authentic, testimony of identity, significant, diverse, and coherent but it is also fragile, nonrenewable and irr eplaceable, and often exposed to various threats. It is in these threats that the challenges of policymakers are crucial. Alteration, deterioration, disappearance, destruction, disruption, degradation, damaging, neglecting, transformation, and disrespect are keywords related with the heritage fr agility emphasized in the successive international declarations and conventions (Fig. 6.1).

Natural causes are an enormous danger to heritage but the risks caused by the action of man are even more unpredictable. The natural reasons that can affect heritage include climate change, natural disasters, and the natural passing of time. They are exacerbated by other circumstances such as economic, social pressures, armed conflict, and cultural reasons.

Using the documental analysis of international charts and declarations, it is possible to identify other stress conditions that can be categorized into socio-economic and cultural. Inside the socio-economic category, mass tourism, globalization, economic pressure, speculation, social transformation, urban development, land use, pollution, traffic, and displacement of communities and abandoned places are the most-cited risks in international documents (Fig. 6.1). Among cultural factors it is not just the compatible new uses of heritage, its removal or demolition, loss of identity and character, disappearance of cultural practices, and loss or substitution of uses and values that are the most commonly cited threats in international documents (Fig. 6.1).

Documental analysis of selected international and European charts and conventions by key words


Tangible heritage Intangible heritage

Spirit of place Collective memory Landscape Cultural community

Characteristics Fragile Non-renewable Irreplaceable Authentic Testimony of identity Significant Diverse Coherent

Heritage threats










Disrespecting values, practices and traditions Inadequate communication of the significance Misunderstanding of the significance

Heritage risk


Climate change

Natural disasters


Mass tourism


Economic pressurer


Social transformation

Urban development

Land use



Displacement of communities

Abandoned places


New use incompatible

Heritage use

Removal or demolition

Loss of identity and character Disappearance of cultural practices Loss or substitution of uses and values

Armed conflict


FIGURE 6.1 Heritage and the main risks. Source: Diagram prepared by authors.

Necessaiy measures must be taken to ensure the safeguarding, protection, conservation, preservation, and prevention of negative impacts on the tangible and intangible heritage of the landscape, under the consequence of its loss, as soon as the economic evaluation of the territories has taken place.

Losing or decreasing the value of the place or the uniqueness of its character, its authenticity, the diversity of its attributes, and its deep significance, all those losses could jeopardize the meaning of a visit. It would make sense to issue a warning that losing or damaging heritage, one of the most important resources hi the local and regional economy could negatively affect the motivation of local people to stay and in consequence lead to their abandoning the given territories. Without the stimulated involvement of local communities, places are affected by lethargy, inactivity, and forgetfulness of memory and heritage. The resulting local low self-esteem must be counteracted.

Heritage protection becomes an ever-greater mission due to constant and numerous threats. Policymakers have to focus their action on the particularity of what identifies their territory and what gives it value by maintaining the spirit of hospitality that has given so much value to tourism, but at the same time they should implement measures to promote sustainability. In addition, special care and work should be undertaken to guarantee such heritage values as authenticity and identity. To explain the importance of authenticity, this concept refers to value-added travel, unprecedented experiences, discovering authentic places, discovery of traditional lifestyle, the desire to make the lived experience a way of life, identifying a population group, discovering vernacular architecture, and discovering of some unknown traditions.

Another risk which heritage may have to oppose are its new and incompatible uses and practices, loss or substitution of uses and values, and the removal or demolition of historical buildings, as well as the increase of new constructions. This loss of uses or values (tangibles or intangibles) could accelerate the movement of conununities and the consequent loss of identity. Again, depopulation could have a serious impact on the territory.

In the interior of the country and in many rural areas, heritage often suffers neglect due to the vanishing of cultural practices and abandonment in the face of the departure of local conununities, sometimes in relation to the processes of gentrification. Local decision makers need to be aware of the risks of gentrification and implement specific control systems to counteract it (ICOMOS, 2011).

It is necessary to limit or prevent the departure of local people, to promote their establishments, and to attract younger generations. Otherwise, the population decline and the changing social and economic conditions increase the risk of heritage damage or the destruction caused by the lack of economic investment to support its conservation or restoration.

Another factor that causes local conununities to disperse is the incapacity of regional and local economies to create opportunities for entrepreneurship and to combat poverty. Policymakers actually are confronted with real territorial problems resulting from the fast economic development, in association with reduced planning for the sustainable development of places and insufficient measures to protect heritage and culture. It is very important to notice that the destruction of heritage, the identity and authenticity lost are correlated with economic, cultural, social, political activities and they threaten the wealth of the territory, as well as its values and significance. Contrariwise, heritage and culture could be treated as assets for local and regional development.

The risks caused by human actions, in particular, the development of mass tourism and the problems resulting from the fast urban development that lead to economic pressure and speculation are the most cited factors in the international documents. The increasing number of tourists generates a massive heritage use, in particular at historic urban centers, at World Heritage sites, and monuments. The increased tourist traffic affects urban development, worsens traffic conditions, and creates extra pollution.

Tourism opened a continuous process of global communication that carries social and cultural transformations and new possibilities of acculturation, creativity development, and cultural fusions. It is the passage of times that occurs as a living being. The new and the traditional may live together because together they enhance economic development and create cultural and social possibilities. But the threat of deterioration, disappearance, and destruction of tangible or intangible heritage is very present in this global process (UNESCO, 2003). Globalization, without concern for planning, vision, str ategic thinking, and openness to the global world present itself as a strong threat. The natural resources and the use of heritage are heavily threatened, urging us to contemplate a sustainable development in our actions.

The tourism and heritage relationship is a very sensitive issue and sometimes a cause of disagreements between local and regional actors. One of the main reasons of the dissonance is that tourism and heritage have different perspectives about the use of heritage places. Heritage administrators are increasingly anxious about heritage tourism and accuse it for promoting an accelerating degradation of historical sites, buildings, and other structures. On the other hand, the tourism sector criticizes heritage administration for insufficient efforts to find a viable economic solution for the development and protection of heritage assets.

It should be noted that tourism has been the greatest ally in rehabilitation, conservation, safeguarding natural and cultural heritage in the motivation of communities, but it demands gr eat responsibility from managers, policymakers, and society in general. As will be discussed later, heritage sites and historic towns are prone to overtourism. Tourism can improve conservation and the economic value of cultural heritage and could justify the preservation of cultural heritage and to educate communities and visitors alike. However, if tourism does not respect the intrinsic values of heritage, it can compromise its authenticity and damage its integrity. The development of tourism without particular concern for heritage values endangers the very characteristics of landscapes and the lifestyles of communities that drive it, ultimately degrading the overall visitor experience.

According to the analysis of charts and conventions, risk mitigation can be focused on an action centered on the territorial planning and management, on the protection of the heritage values, and the dissemination of the heritage significance through actions of formal and nonfonnal education (Fig. 6.2). These actions can promote protection and care for heritage assets, reduce negative impacts, and avoid the destruction of the elements that give value to the territory.

Documental analysis of selected international and European charts and conventions by key words

Heritage risks


Climate change Natural disasters


Mass tourism


Economic pressure


Social transformation

Urban development

Land use



Displacement of communities

Abandoned places


New use incompatible

Heritage use

Removal or demolition

Loss of identity and character Disappearance of cultural practices Loss or substitution of uses and values

Armed conflict:


Risk mitigation

Territorial planning and management:

Territorial management

Territorial planning

International co-operation

Participation local community

Control and monitoring measures

improve quality of the environment and the quality of way of life

Control gentrification

Environmental sustainability

Emergency management and planning

Sustainable development

Coherent development

Territorial cohesion

Protection from climate change and natural disasters

Culture and heritage values protection

Bringing a live values (cultural, natural, traditional, histone) In situ heritage protection

Compatible heritage uses

Sustainable hentage use

Harmonious adaptation to contemporary life

Respect the values of the site and its setting

Apply internationally recognized and appropriately standards

Use of the cultural heritage economic potential

Use of traditional material and techniques in modern applications

Research, dissemination and educational needs Communicate the heritage significance

Communicate the need of conservation for visitors and host communities include heritage in reasearch and in all education level's Enhance access to cultural hentage through digitalization


Heritage safeguard

Heritage protection

Heritage conservation and restoration

Heritage preservation

Prevent negative Impacts

Impacts monitoring

Natural balance

Avoiding the destruction of natural hentage

Planning facilities

Concepts based action

Cooperation and consultation of the host communities

Capacity building

Education and training opportunities

Tourism promotion programmes

FIGURE 6.2 Risks mitigation.

Source: Diagram prepared by authors.

However, in order to achieve precise objectives in this respect that would benefit the territory and its people, it is important to involve all the stakeholders. They all need to develop their capacity through education and training.

The paramount economic function of tourism—its contribution to the “creation of wealth and employment,” as pronounced in the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (UNWTO, 1999)—is beyond doubt. The steady growth of the international tourism industry’s share of the global GDP—amounting to 10% in 2017, following a 5% rise over the previous year (UNWTO, 2018)—is one of the most eagerly quoted economic indicators. It has been observed, time and again, that tourism favors free-market conditions—in particular free enterprise, and the free flow of money, people, and goods, in order to maximize its positive socio-economic effects and to ensure an unencumbered utilization of key tourism assets.

With a short exception at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the global political and economic conditions have been particularly conducive for tourism and travel to flourish in most of then aspects. Nevertheless, the need to highlight the transformative power of tourism beyond the conventional economic indicators has also been advocated in the literature. Multiple evidence has been presented that tourism has the potential to promote peace, foster solidarity and tolerance, contribute to justice and social equity, enable cultural and intellectual exchange, increase the quality of life, trigger positive social changes, provide rationale for the conservation, protection and interpretation of buildings and the revitalization of traditions, etc. (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2006; Mason, 2016; Rivera et al., 2016; Sharpley, 2014; Smith and Diekmann, 2017). Arguably, the significance of cultur al heritage tourism in this respect is greater than that of many other forms of leisure tourism (Council of Europe, 2005; Garrod and Fyall, 2000; McKercher and Du Cros, 2002; Rebanks, 2010; Richards, 2018; Silverman et al., 2017).

However, as a complex, global phenomenon, tourism has not been without its flaws. In fact, the very Code of Ethics was a necessary response to numerous cases of cultural and economic exploitation, social injustice, and environmental destruction caused by the industry around the world. A number of international and sectoral agreements and treaties, some of them discussed in this chapter, have addressed a variety of phenomena that undermine the net positive impact of tourism on people and places. The spectre of overtourism—that is, exceeding the carrying capacity of destinations, mainly those rich in cultural and heritage assets—has been but the latest threat bome out of the global quantitative success of the tourism industry (WTTC, 2017). Moreover, a number of communities and organizations around the world have been marginalized or altogether-excluded from participating in the benefits of tourism due to their lack of knowledge, skills, or institutional mechanisms needed to utilize that potential (Silverman et al., 2017; Waterton and Watson, 2011). Digitalization has resolved some of the tensions resident in the discussed phenomena but it also brought about new challenges of exclusion based on digital literacy, as well as the as yet unresolved issue of misinformation (Taylor and Gibson, 2017).

The aim of this section is to identify and characterize the groups of interested or affected parties and/or individuals that have their stake in the tourism industry’s deployment and expansion, and whose capacity—or lack thereof—to partake in the above can hinder or enhance the positive net effects of heritage tourism development.

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics